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How to Build a Better Immune System, One Fart at a Time [New Research!]

Posted Oct 05 2011 12:44am

“Honey?” The other morning my darling husband rolled over in bed, looked me in straight in the eyes and with one hand on my cheek whispered, “Why don’t you ever get sick?! It’s not fair!!” Our pillow talk has really suffered since we’ve had children. While everything must be said in a whisper – they have a sex-0-meter so fine tuned that it still amazes me they have siblings – those whispers are usually more along the lines of “Why is it so hot here?!” than “Is it just me or is it hot in here? *wink wink*” (Gotta keep the thermostat up, see, since all our wee ones kick off their blankets off every five minutes and the last thing I need are little penguin toes wriggling into bed with me.) Considering that my husband was in the throes of a bad flu episode, I lovingly looked back at him and replied, “It’s all that healthy living crap I do, sucka! And no you can’t kiss me!”

Kidding. What I actually said was, “All those vegetables I eat, I guess? And no you can’t kiss me!”  But it turns out that my great immune system may have less to do with my smug chia-swilling, Tabata-running ways and more with my gender. This week scientists discovered that some micro-RNA on the X chromosomes are partly responsible for silencing immunity genes. At first glance you’d think women would be worse off since we have the double X thing going on but apparently the micro-RNAs don’t gang up and so if one is doing it’s immunosuppressing thing then other one isn’t, leaving us healthier than our XY counterparts who only have one shot.

I have to admit that this natural health advantage pleases me. I’ve long been jealous of my husband’s ability to lose 10 pounds just by cutting out his nightly bowl of ice cream and how he can outlift me on the weight floor even though he only lifts on a bi-monthly basis. And a strong immune system is like the gold medal of health! And the grand prize is my very own flu shot! I win again! (Seriously am I competing on a cellular level now? I need help.)

Honestly though I do think there’s more to it than just my XX-iness. I’ve found that when I can stick to eating mostly healthy food, getting enough sleep and exercising (moderately, natch) that I get sick less often and when I am stricken, it’s much less severe than it seems to be for other people. When you live with 4 tiny disease carriers like I do, this is a big deal.

Using Food To Heal and Strengthen Your Immune System

Of course this whole immune system thing is a very delicate balancing act with many factors that affect how well you can ward off illnesses both small and serious. But science has shown that food is powerful medicine and there are particular foods that are known to help strengthen your immune system . And these foods may surprise you.

Sure fruits, vegetables, protein and anything not labeled “serving size: 1/4 pint” are known to help build healthy immune systems but the real power players are basically the whole category of foods known as “The ones that give you awful farts.” Beans, cruciferous veggies, cabbage and mushrooms are all great for your immune system, if not your social life. In addition, one of the best things you can do for your immune system is to support your gut by populating it with healthy bacteria, like the kind that come in fermented foods.

Think beyond yogurt though and learn to love sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. (Apparently you can make your own fermented foods pretty easily but somehow I think it involves more than just putting a pile of cabbage in a jar to rot in your cabinet for 6 months. It’s on my list of things to try…sometime.) This works out well for me since I’ve adored sauerkraut since childhood when I used to sit on my mom’s lap and inhale an entire jar with her in one sitting. She’s of German descent. Sauerkraut (the kind with caraway seeds is the best!) and pickled beets are my comfort food. I think I was 20 before I realized that other people don’t love to sit down with a big bowl of kraut and a spoon every evening. I also love kefir but you have to be careful with the sweetened varieties since sugar is a known immunosuppressant.

So what’s your verdict: Do you get sick less often than most people and if so what’s your secret? Anyone else love farty foods but fear eating them unless you know for sure that you are staying in for the rest of the day? Anyone ever tried kimchi?

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